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Boosting Viral Surveillance

The US is moving to increase its ability to track SARS-CoV-2 alterations with viral sequencing, the Financial Times reports.

It notes the UK — which identified a new strain last month that is thought to be more transmissible — has tracked mutations within about 9 percent of tests, while the US has lagged, sequencing about 0.3 percent of samples. FT notes that the UK provided funding, about £20 million, for viral genomic surveillance early in the pandemic, which it recently extended.

Since the identification of the B.1.1.7 strain, FT reports that the US is working with Illumina, Helix, and LabCorp to bolster viral sequencing capacity. Francis deSouza, the CEO of Illumina, tells FT that better infrastructure is needed. "We're in a foot race now between these emerging [more] transmissible strains and the vaccine rollout," he adds there. Other new strains have been identified in South Africa, Brazil and now, California.

According to FT, Loyce Pace, executive director of the Global Health Council who is also part of the COVID-19 Advisory Board to now-President Joe Biden, says the group has recommended that the new administration focus on genomic surveillance.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.